- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang on Tuesday became the seventh active candidate to hit the benchmarks to qualify for the Democratic presidential debate later this month, amid lobbying from within the party to rework the Democratic National Committee’s oft-criticized polling and fundraising criteria.

Thursday is the deadline to qualify for the Dec. 19 debate, which is now likely to feature those seven candidates — down from 10 last month — and deny outsiders running low on cash one of their last major shot at the national stage before voters head to the polls.

“If you think about it, that is really the only chance you have as a non-Bloomberg candidate to get your message out there, is the debates,” said John Couvillon, a Louisiana-based pollster. “That becomes the universe of candidates — those who showed up on the stage.”

Mr. Yang was at 4% support among Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independent voters, according to a national Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

That was his fourth qualifying poll. To qualify, candidates have to register at least 4% support in four DNC-approved national or early-state polls, or hit 6% support in two early-state polls.



Candidates also have to prove they’ve gotten campaign contributions from at least 200,000 individual donors, a mark Mr. Yang had already met.

Mr. Yang, perhaps best known for his proposal to pay every American a $1,000-per-month stipend, posted a clip of himself shooting hoops to celebrate the news.

“It’s official! We’re headed to the December Debate! Couldn’t have done it without all the amazing support from the #yanggang,” he tweeted.

Two active candidates who participated in last month’s debate are in danger of being left off the debate stage in Los Angeles. Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have hit the 200,000 donor requirement but have not yet amassed support in enough qualifying polls.

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, who was not in last month’s debate, also has crossed the donor threshold but is short on the polling side.

But Ms. Gabbard, who has tangled with the DNC over the debate qualification process, appeared to preemptively take herself off the stage on Tuesday anyway.

“For a number of reasons, I have decided not to attend the December 19th ‘debate’ — regardless of whether or not there are qualifying polls,” she tweeted. “I instead choose to spend that precious time directly meeting with and hearing from the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina.”

Though the DNC will have the final say, it appears that six other candidates have qualified for the next debate: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California also had hit the benchmarks, but she dropped out of the race last week.

In recent days, Mr. Booker has lamented a process that will likely ensure there are “more billionaires than black people” on the stage after Ms. Harris’s departure from the race.

“I’m a little upset with the [DNC] right now because they seem to be trying to make the decisions for you,” Mr. Booker, who is black, told an Iowa crowd on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Mr. Castro, who is Hispanic, has lodged similar complaints about a lack of diversity in the remaining crop of candidates.

At a meeting of the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee over the weekend, attendees approved a motion presented by state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark urging DNC leadership to “revisit” the qualifying criteria, according to a state party spokesperson.

“On behalf of the NHDP state committee, we call upon the DNC to lift the barriers as to whom can qualify for the Democratic Presidential Primary debates,” the motion says. “We ask for this important change to be made on the basis of ensuring greater diversity with regard to gender, race, and personal financial resources.”

The DNC has defended its metrics throughout the process, saying viable candidates should be able to clear the benchmarks and that no candidate polling below 4% at this stage in the primaries has gone on to be the party’s nominee.

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said that collectively, more women and candidates of color have participated in the debates than billionaires.

“We have made diversity a priority by requiring that every debate have women and people of color as moderators,” she said. “We’ve never seen a political party take this many steps to be inclusive.”

Other contenders unlikely to qualify include Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and author Marianne Williamson.

Mr. Bloomberg, who along with Mr. Patrick entered the race just last month, has surged to as high as fifth place in some recent national polling. But the billionaire businessman and former mayor has declined to actively raise money and isn’t putting an emphasis on meeting the DNC’s qualifications, instead relying on a deluge of television advertisements and personal appearances to get his message out.

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